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Casa de las Olas in Tulum isn’t for everyone, but that’s the beauty of it. The first sign? There are no hairdryers allowed – high-wattage appliances draw large amounts of power and damage the solar-power energy batteries. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how much you’ve spent – beach hair it is.
Ten years ago in Tulum, this pared-back approach would have been the norm. Those were the days of barefaced, barefoot luxury; when this idyllic patch of Caribbean coast on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico was a secret for a select few. Today, hippy jungle parties have been replaced with world-class DJs; roadside taco joints with award-winning restaurants; yoga on the beach with high-end studios. Happy to run into an ex-model-turned-nutrition-coach with frizzy hair? Read on.
Casa de las Olas is a guest beach house for the eco-conscious, open-minded traveller. And it’s about as close as you’ll get to the old Tulum. Located at the edge of the Sian Ka’an reserve, at the farthest point on the Tulum beach road, it’s a stone’s throw from the town’s best spots but a world-away from the scene you’ll find in People Magazine. “I’m holding the line” says owner Jimmy, “my guests aren’t going to feel what’s going on outside.”
What’s going on outside is a busy beach road lined with expensive restaurants, boutiques selling $500 bikinis and a bunch of hotels, many of which are putting a great strain on the land. What’s inside? A place which celebrates all that originally made Tulum magic; nature, food and community spirit.
At around 50 years old, the property is one of the oldest on the beach road and has an Austrian ex-engineer, the original owner’s caretaker, to thank for its genius sustainable design. Coconut palms protectively shade the two main buildings and palm-frond roofs make sure that the sun doesn’t scorch the rooms. Curved walls inside the suites circulate the sea breeze around rooms and its beachside location means there’s plenty to go around – nature’s own air con. Rain collectors water the property while the cenote (natural plunge pool) across the street is your kitchen and shower water.
Unlike some of the more flimsy bungalows which have popped up over the years in Tulum, Casa de las Olas is hurricane proof and sturdy as a rock. “If the world were to go down we’d be fine. We’ve got fish, coconuts, electricity and cenote water,” says Jimmy, whose eyes light up when he talks about the different sustainable elements of the property. When he bought the place seven years ago he was militant about continuing this eco-lifestyle. The guesthouse has been retrofitted with solar panels for electricity, and even cleaning products are biodegradable.
While there is no restaurant at Casa de las Olas, food is at the heart of the experience. The day starts with a communal breakfast outside, cooked by beloved resident chef Lulu – think chilaquiles and plantain with yoghurt, homemade granola and fresh coffee – before they send you off with a carefully curated list of taco spots, fish shacks and the only restaurants worth your money. The casa runs its own “eat retreat” at the property along with world renowned chef Eric Werner of acclaimed restaurant Hartwood. The jungle-based eatery is notoriously the hardest place to get a table in Tulum, but Casas de las Olas always have hookup. There’s also no bar, but there are fresh coconuts, a few beers in the fridge and, of course, margaritas.
Private yoga lessons are available too. Throw your mat down on the sand, look to the sun, listen to the waves and downward dog just as nature intended. And anyone can join in, which is symbolic of the community spirit that you feel here. Groups of guests often end up dining together in town, usually at Hartwood along with Jimmy and Shawna, another team member. But it’s at breakfast where everyone really seems to gather, fuelling up on natural produce and sharing stories and tips from their time in Tulum. And because Casa de las Olas isn’t for everyone, you know these are the people that have the best intentions for this beautiful part of the world.
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